Healthy Living

7 Health Screenings Every Woman Should Have

Mar 13 2024

As a woman, it’s important to take time to prioritize your health. And keeping yourself healthy requires regular health screenings to detect potential problems early.

Heather Hoy, MD, an OB-GYN at Bon Secours St. Francis, emphasizes the importance of seven key medical screenings for women.

“Women can take charge of their health by getting checked at the right times,” Dr. Hoy shares. “Early detection allows for early treatment, which is key to preventing these end-stage diseases.”

First up, Pap smears.

Pap smears screen for cervical cancer. Starting at age 21, women should undergo this screening every three years if under 30, and every five years if over 30. However, women with a history of abnormal pap smears or other risk factors may need to be screened more frequently.

Early detection is crucial for preventing cervical cancer, as it’s highly treatable when caught in its pre-cancerous stage. You can receive a Pap smear screening at your gynecologist’s office.

Next, sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Women should be screened annually for all STIs once they become sexually active, continuing until age 25. After age 25, women should be tested annually for gonorrhea and chlamydia.

Additionally, women in the early stages of pregnancy should be tested for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B. They should also be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia if at risk for either of those.

Also, mammograms.

Starting at age 40, women should receive annual mammogram screenings for breast cancer. If you have risk factors for breast cancer or a family history of it, your provider might start screening you earlier. Early detection through mammograms significantly improves treatment outcomes for women with breast cancer, so this is a very important screening not to skip.

Colorectal cancer screening is important, too.

The frequency of screenings varies based on the method, typically ranging from every three to 10 years starting at age 45. These tests can include a stool DNA test, colonoscopy or a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) depending on what your provider prefers.

Colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women, so it is important to get this screening done.

As is a bone scan, or DEXA scan.

Screening for osteoporosis typically begins at age 65 and is done every 15 years. Women are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis compared to men.

And finally, a diabetes screening as well as a lipid screening.

Starting at age 35, women should undergo diabetes screening every three years. As for lipid screenings, those should be done every five years starting at age 40.

Did you know that women need both a gynecologist as well as a primary care provider?

Dr. Hoy encourages women to consult with both these providers to discuss their own personal health needs and determine their appropriate screening schedule. This is because recommended screening ages may vary based on individual factors like pre-existing conditions, family history and other risk factors.

Learn about the primary care services as well as the gynecology services we provide at Bon Secours.

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